I am in Houston at the 4th Annual Summer Workshop on Health Disparities. A number of the countries best and brightest are here to talk about health disparities from a variety of disciplinary perspectives. Right now I’m listening to Bill Jenkins and he’s talking about the disparity in death rates and HIV/AIDS between blacks and whites. When video of the conference is available I’ll link to it here. Tidbits:

  • There was an arcane law in New Orleans that allowed drug users to get clean needles from the state. This law was prominently featured in a newspaper critique…and legislators promptly changed the law.
  • There isn’t one HIV/AIDS epidemic…there are two parallel epidemics in America, one largely black, one largely white. They’ve got different roots (HIV/AIDS is transmitted in black communities NOT by down-low brothers but by hetero drug addicts, HIV/AIDS is transmitted in white communities by white gay men). They’ve got different solutions.
  • The disparity between high income black and white women in infant mortality rates far outstrips the disparity between low income black and white women. Why? Stress…but I’m thinking there’s more going on.

What we’ve got to get to–and why I became a Kellog Scholar in Health Disparities in the first place–are the politics behind these dynamics. One of my colleagues talked about the role of “cultural insensitivity”. I suggested that it isn’t “insensitivity”…what we’re talking about are the politics of care.